'Gro-Low' Fragrant Sumac
Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ is another one of those plants we like to feature here in our Plant of the Week column, because it checks all our boxes: a native plant; deer resistant and drought tolerant once established; a great pollinator plant (functioning as both nectar source and a host plant for butterflies/moths); wildlife-friendly; a good choice for firewise gardens; and is even clay tolerant if planted on a slope or a mound.
As its name suggests, Rhus ‘Gro-Low’ only gets 1 ½’ to 2’ tall, and spreads to 6 to 8’ wide, giving it a nice mounded shape. Plants are fast-growing, with attractive (and fragrant!) glossy green leaves. It grows best in full sun, but will also tolerate a slight bit of afternoon shade.
Small, nondescript creamy-white flowers appear on branch tips in spring. While humans might not be impressed by the flowers, they’re a wonderful source of nectar for pollinators including bees and butterflies. ‘Gro-Low’ is a great plant to use if you are looking to extend the length of the bloom season in your pollinator garden.
Rhus ‘Gro-Low’ also proves that great fall color doesn’t only come on trees! These shrubs but on quite a show, with leaves turning a variety of shades of fiery orange, mahogany red, and deep burgundy.
Finally, because of its ability to spread via root suckers and by branches that are able to root down where they touch the soil (like some species of Manzanitas), ‘Gro-Low’ is an especially useful plant for gardeners looking to stabilize a slope or an eroding streambank.